The Right Affiliations

Ellen Schned believes she has found the perfect job, one that enables her to channel "my three passions – celebrities, politics and law."

As Court TV's senior vice president of national accounts and affiliate marketing, she was involved in planning the network's screening of the film Memento, attended by one of its stars, Joe Pantoliano, as well as other cast members from Home Box Office's The Sopranos,
and other shows.

To plug its public-service initiatives, Court TV also hosted an event at last year's CTPAA conference, attended by such actors as Billy Baldwin and Lynda Carter, such politicians as Sen. John McCain and Reps. Billy Tauzin and Edward Markey.

In working on what she dubbed "the front lines," Schned said she had two major objectives last year: "helping Court TV exceed 75 million subscribers and really putting it on the map with its affiliate marketing."

Affiliate-marketing efforts have included digital fingerprinting for kids, "Everyday Heroes," local screenings and bringing talent to local-market events.

These and other activities "created a lot of buzz last year and enabled us to break through the clutter," she said. So did local promotions linked to such original fare as Safety Challenge
and Forensics Files.

Schned joined Court TV as vice president of national accounts in December 1999, when Henry Schleiff was promoted to CEO and the network was "ready to take off." Since then, Court's distribution roster has almost doubled from 38 million back then to 75 million now.

After having been promoted to senior vice president two years ago, she added affiliate marketing to her responsibilities last year.

Career change

Schned's arrival at Court TV marked a dramatic change in career direction. Previously, she had been a lawyer and lobbyist. Since 1992, she had been at Viacom Inc. as its Washington-based vice president of government affairs. Within months, she was immersed in coordinating Viacom's efforts to get its Paramount Pictures Corp. merger approved by the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and Congress. She also got to work with "every major law firm" involved in that undertaking.

She also represented Viacom in debating the revised Telecommunications Act of 1996, for which she secured amendments pertaining to program access, she added.

During her stint at Viacom she "enjoyed working with the MTV Networks affiliate team and I wanted to try my hand at that."

From 1988 to 1992 she worked at the FCC, first in the Mass Media Bureau and then in the Office of Legislative Affairs.

She arrived at the Mass Media Bureau "straight out of law school." That proved to be an "incredible first job," she said. While there, she worked on First Amendment issues, most notably the Howard Stern/Infinity indecency case.

Promoted after a year to the legislative office, Schned worked on the 1992 Cable Act, for which she drafted the cable customer service regulations.

Schned said those government posts have served her well at Court TV, as she developed Capitol Hill contacts whom she would later call upon for the network-sponsored local events. Added pluses, she said, are "the ability to be more creative…and work on a wider canvas."

Beyond her day-to-day job at Court TV, Schned works with several women's organizations, including American Women in Radio & Television and Women in Cable & Telecommunications. She feels it's important to develop mentoring opportunities via such groups.

After having served as president of AWRT's Washington chapter, Schned was named chairperson of the New York chapter's newly created advisory board last year. In that role, she's trying to unify the different disciplines of broadcast and cable – ad sales, marketing and distribution – and to strategize about opportunities for women.

Last year she proposed an AWRT panel featuring TV anchors, an event that also helped Court TV promote its "Anchor for a Day" contest. That session, which included NBC/MSNBC's Forrest Sawyer, WNBC-TV's Jane Hanson and Court's own Catherine Crier, was well attended and resulted in a lively dialog. AWRT is looking at that as an annual attraction, she added.

Having joined the WICT board in New York two years ago, she said she wants to put that chapter "on the map" by establishing "a premiere event" along the lines of the organization's annual gala in the nation's capital.

What does she like to do in her spare time? "Golf and more golf," she said. But, for her, that activity is often linked to work. "At every opportunity I try to arrange golf outings," with clients or without.

"I love sports – tennis as well," she added, then pointed out that she works with the U.S. Tennis Association on Court TV-sponsored events designed to "keep kids on the courts and out of court."

A California girl, Schned said "that even in high school and college I liked taking on a leadership role." At Simi Valley high school, she was elected student-body president and was captain of the debate team. She moved on to UCLA and to Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. At Hastings, she was also elected president of the student body.

Her new goals

For the new year, Schned has set some new goals: "No.1, grow the sub base to 80 million. Second, continue to strengthen our affiliate-marketing programs to benefit the cable operators."

The network made its first significant foray into affiliate marketing as it passed the 70-million plateau. Now, Court TV is looking for ways in which its on-channel and online content can help affiliates generate revenue, she said.